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How do charter school tuition costs compare to basic education funding?

How does a school district’s charter school tuition expenditures compare to BEF? With tremendous diversity across the commonwealth’s 500 school districts, the extent to which charter school tuition expenditures impact a school district budget varies. Since all 500 school districts are unique, to help put the charter school tuition costs in context, we’ve compared them to each school district’s total state basic education funding.
We covered state basic education funding (BEF) earlier this year—noting that the BEF line item is the largest education line item in the budget and represents about 50% of all state funding to school districts. It provides for flexible funding for school districts and is generally used to cover increasing instructional-related costs. For 2018-19, the total state BEF line item is about $6 billion (click here for a refresher on BEF).
The total charter school tuition expenditures for all 500 school districts totaled about $1.6 billion in 2016-17 (the most recent year of available data), representing more than 25% of the total BEF line item.
Comparing the charter school tuition expenditures to total BEF for each school district creates a charter school tuition/BEF ratio, providing another lens through which to assess both charter school tuition expenditures and state BEF by district.
The charter school tuition/BEF ratio differs in all 500 school districts. In some school districts, their charter school tuition expenditures represent less than 5% of their state BEF—this means that for every dollar these school districts receive in BEF, they are spending $0.05 on charter school tuition. In other districts, however, charter school tuition represents in excess of 75% of their total state BEF. This means that for every dollar in BEF, these school districts are spending $0.75 on charter school tuition.
Some school districts have charter school tuition expenditures that eclipse their total state BEF. For example, Coatesville Area School District’s charter school tuition expenditures represent 137% of their state BEF. This means that for every dollar the state sends Coatesville Area School District in BEF, the school districts sends $1.37 to a charter school.
Click on the interactive map below to view the charter school tuition/BEF ratio for each school district. This percentage represents each school district’s total charter school tuition expenditures in comparison to their total state BEF for 2016-17.